The House in the Commercials

My neighbors, a couple of times a year, wake up to find the streets surrounding my house filled with cars, vans, trailers and food trucks. They arrive in cover of darkness and stay until long after dinner. An army of people in flannel shirts and jeans and leggings enter my house with armloads of A/V equipment and clothing on hangers and boxes filled with artwork.

They’re all there to shoot a commercial. I have a friend who is a site scout and my house is in her file as one with warm woodwork, a “homey” feel and a willing homeowner. I rent it out to production companies looking for the look and feel of my bungalow.

The most recent? A credit union that did two shoots in one day: one about the thrill of hearing about a college admission, the other about the need for more bathroom space. That’s my front steps and front door, but not my mailbox. And, that’s my upstairs bathroom and hallway.

The amount of work and workers to shoot these 30-second spots is surprising. Way before they show up for the shoot, an agency conceives of the story. Once a client signs off and a budget is set, a production company is hired to bring the idea to life. For a spot that takes place in a home, it’s less expensive to find a space that already looks like one than to start from scratch in a blank space. That’s where the site scout comes in. My friend will let me know of a possibility and my house is usually one of three that the production company comes to take a look at. That’s visit number one, and takes about an hour.

If my house is chosen, I’m quoted a price, given a date range for the shoot, and asked to make the house available for one more two- or three-hour visit before the shoot for last-minute shot planning. I’m asked to sign an agreement and provided proof of insurance by the production company.

On shoot day I head out, with the dog, for the day. No space for me to be underfoot, as between 20 and 30 people are there to put coverings on my floors, move furniture (after taking photos so they can put it back), set up equipment, do hair and make-up, feed the crew, record, act and direct. My basement has been turned into a commissary, my garage into a makeshift doctor’s office for a healthcare shoot.

My compensation for my trouble will pay for two or three airline flights, so it’s worth it to me. I’ve had at least a half-dozen shoots between this house and my last one, and the experience has been just fine. It’s probably not for everyone, as you have to be comfortable with lots of people in every nook and cranny of your home. But it’s fun to see the final product; this year I stumbled on the college admission one during the Super Bowl!

Interested? Google “site scout” and get your space on a list. Who knows? Your house may have just the right look for that carpet cleaning commercial that’s being planned right now.

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